The onetime megastar ended a years-long dry spell this summer with smash single ”Just a Dream,” and on 5.0 Nelly makes a reasonably convincing case that he can keep the momentum going. He has recovered his pop instincts, slinging singsong rhymes over energetic beats courtesy of 2010?s biggest producers (including Dr. Luke and Jim Jonsin). His lyrics are vacuous as ever, but those hooks sure are sticky.
Writing off a rap album based on its guest stars may be like judging a book by its cover, but doing so might save you from the crushing blandness of Nelly’s 5. 0, whose lame crop of collaborators signals the mediocrity in store. A collection of collaborations with low-wattage names and also-rans, it basically indicates that even if Nelly is still trying (which he doesn’t seem to be), he hasn’t sustained the credibility to achieve a plausible comeback.
“Just a Dream,” essentially an adult contemporary pop-rap single -- a song that would be easily adaptable to a country or pop ballad singer -- became Nelly’s first Top Ten single in five years. Between that and a handful of memorable, scattered hooks, such as the slick ones within the Smash Factory-produced “She’s so Fly” and the Polow-produced “Long Gone,” nothing on the rapper’s sixth studio album encourages repeated listening. Nelly’s exuberance often sounds feigned.